Theatre Review: Shaw’s Scrooge Sings a New Christmas Carol

Theatre Review: Shaw’s Scrooge Sings a New Christmas Carol
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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One of the greatest challenges in creating any famous story is making it enjoyable for audiences who know every word of it. That’s the best surprise – and delight – in Tim Carroll’s new production of A Christmas Carol, now playing at the Shaw Festival’s Royal George Theatre.

Many of the best transfers from novel to stage come when the story is presented with sincerity and focus. When the source material is twisted or reinvented, the product is muddled. Instead, Shaw has remained true to Dickens’ famous book and presented his story with beauty and lavish warmth.

Everything from the sets that evoke Christmas storybooks to the contrasting cold and festive lights – it’s all brilliant. The production’s design captures the range of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from holiday humbug to a redeemed soul. It also helps that Michael Therriault’s Scrooge is the most intricate and perfectly comic I’ve ever seen. His casting is ingenious.

Michael Therriault as Scrooge. Photo: Shaw Festival.

The remaining actors are just as engrossing and charming, full of truthful Christmas spirit. Even the coldest grouch will be thawed by the performers’ earnestness. The cast of ten play dozens of characters, ranging from ghosts, carollers, spirits, and relatives. Many are human, but some are also elaborate phantoms or ingenious puppets. Many of the famous characters are portrayed with flair and inventiveness.

For those with families, you don’t need to be worried about the grislier or macabre elements of the show. Everything is presented in a stark yet whimsical manner. However elaborate or grand, there’s nothing scary or morbid.

Carroll, Shaw’s artistic director, has been pioneering new ideas and initiatives all season. Adding to his growing list of new kinds of theatre and performances, he’s brilliantly restaged the holiday classic for the festival’s first time.

Photo: Shaw Festival.

His idea to bring Christmas into the charming town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is perfect. The ornate downtown moves seamlessly into the festive lobby. Continuing into the theatre, the house has been transformed into a full-stage advent calendar. (The backdrop offers several artistic surprises, some obvious and others more subtle. What looks merely like a one-trick set materializes into something grand.)

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The entire experience is a welcome venue for all ages. While it’s appropriate for children, the show isn’t specifically tailored for kids. It’s rather the opposite. The audience was full of equally delighted couples, seniors, and adults of all kinds.

In fact, the production’s only downfall might be acquiring tickets. Many performances are almost sold out, though Shaw has announced the production will be returning again in 2018 for the holidays. Lucky ones will find the last few tickets for this Christmas; the rest of us will wait in spirited anticipation.

Like Carroll’s best theatrical works in Canada (e.g. his 2010 Peter Pan at the Stratford Festival) everything is seamless and inviting. It’s great choice for any holiday season, and this is likely the best theatrical adaptation of A Christmas Carol you’ll see.

A Christmas Carol
3 1/2 out of 4 Stars

Book by Charles Dickens.
Ages 6 and Up, 100 minutes. Holiday Family Fantasy.
Adapted and Directed by Tim Carroll.

Starring Michael Therriault as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Also with Patty Jamieson, Andrew Lawrie, Emily Lukasik, Marla McLean, Jeff Medows, Sarena Parmar, PJ Prudat, Graeme Somerville, and Jonathan Tan.

Now Playing at the Shaw Festival, Royal George Theatre, 85 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. Runs until December 23rd, 2017. Tickets range from $25-85, available at here online, or by calling 1-800-511-SHAW.

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